Are Portable Oxygen Concentrators allowed by the Airways?
Airways will allow the use of portable oxygen concentrators(POC in airline terms),when you fly. You will have to be aware of some requirements of the various Airways or Airlines. However you choose to fly. Each specific Airway have some general and more specific rulings and you will need to check with each airline what their specific rulings are. The majority of Airlines will allow portable oxygen concentrators on board as they in general do use small pressure to create oxygen but work on a filtration system of the ambient air. But there are some restrictions to use that I will point out further on. We will also look at a viable alternative.
What is a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?
A portable oxygen concentrator is a ‘small’ device designed to allow patients suffering from low blood oxygen levels to increase the amount of oxygen inhaled. These are used by people suffering from diseases such as Emphysema, COPD(chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), Asthma(severe cases requiring the use of nebulisers) and extreme cases of Sleep Apnea where a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure(CPAP) device is used. These units vary in size from a briefcase to a Picnic basket. The smaller units are designed as ‘on demand’ units, supplying the oxygen enriched air when you inhale. The invention of the portable oxygen concentrator has been a huge leap forward for patients allowing them more mobility than before. You will be attached to the unit via an oxygen supply pipe to either a breathing mask or a cannula.
How your unit works.
The unit operates on a principle known as pressure swing adsorption. Ambient air, which has a composition of 21% Oxygen, 78% Nitrogen and a 1% mixture of other gases. Is compressed in a small chamber and then passed over a zeolite which causes the Nitrogen to bind to it. This leaves the air oxygen rich. This oxygen rich air is what you breathe. The unit then returns the zeolite to ambient air pressure and the nitrogen is then released back into the atmosphere. The unit has been designed to work off standard mains supply, 12 Volt DC supply and off battery packs supplied with the unit.
The common requirements of the Airways for International flight.
All Airlines including Budget Airlines have Quite a few guidelines in common for the use of portable oxygen concentrators when choosing to fly with them. So fasten your seat belt, ensure your luggage is stowed and your seat is in the upright position.
- Plan ahead.
All Airlines require notice to be given in advance of your need to use a portable Oxygen concentrator. When booking a flight. The majority of international airlines require a minimum 72 hour notice period. Ryan air ask for a period of 72 hours minimum to a 14 day notice period, Hawaiian require a medical certificate 10 days prior to Flight for example. You will also need to check in 2 hours before normal check in. So be prepared, emergency travel will be a headache.
2. Medical clearance.
The majority of Airways will require you to complete medical clearance documents. In general you will be required to complete documents available for download from the Airline you have chosen to fly on. In some cases there are two separate forms to be completed. You will also be required to have your registered Physician complete these forms and in some cases are further required to supply and carry the report from your Physician. These documents will need to be submitted to the Airlines medical advisory board for approval. In some cases you will also have to be examined by a Physician appointed by the Airline. Some medical reports are required to be supplied in triplicate and the original document supplied to the airline.
3. Seating on the aircraft.
When using a portable oxygen concentrator, you are attached to the unit via a supply tube. So the Airlines usually request you to stow the unit under the seat in front of you when flying with them. This definitely affects where you are seated on the aircraft. Since the unit works with pressure any seats positioned over bulkheads on the aircraft are out of bounds for obvious reasons. You will also be precluded from sitting opposite the emergency exits on the aircraft because of the supply tubes. So in general you will most likely need to choose or be allocated a window seat or a seat in the centre of the aircraft( aisle seats are also out of the question.) Some airlines will only allow you to fly economy class because of the stowage and use of the unit.
4. Type of portable oxygen concentrator allowed.
In the majority of cases the airlines will supply a list of units that they have approved for use on their aircraft. The majority of airways list the units approved by the Federal Aviation Authority(FAA) of the United States of America. But be careful to check the approved list of each carrier. Some have listed all units approved by the FAA but some have abbreviated this list. So you will need to be aware of the requirements.
All units being used in flight are required to have a sticker from the manufacturer stating that it is approved for air travel under the FAA requirements. You will also need to supply the airline with the proof of the model you are using. This documentation also needs to be carried on your person. South African Airways exclude specific units(Inogen one G2 with battery pack model number BA224) even though they are on the FAA approved list.
5. Power source.
Most airlines do not supply an external power source to plug your unit into during flight. Airlines that do provide these points however do not recommend the use of them. So the bottom line is you need to rely on the internal battery power packs. In terms of the FAA recommendations most Airways recommend that you carry enough batteries to last 150% of the flight. In other words if your flight is 4 hours carry enough to last for 6 hours.
6. Battery Type.
Be careful however as the majority of batteries in use are Lithium Ion(Li-ion) batteries and are considered as hazardous materials by the airlines. In most cases the batteries are rated as 100 – 160 Watt Hours for use by the portable oxygen concentrator. Singapore and Quantas airlines limit you to only two batteries per passenger. So if you have a really long haul flight you may then encounter a problem with enough battery life for your unit. It may then be advisable to look to booking supplementary oxygen through the use of a medical oxygen tank. This will however cost you extra.
7. Spare Battery Storage.
All airlines have a recommended battery storage procedure. In the majority of cases they use the FAA procedures. Your spare batteries will either have to have recessed terminals or have the terminals sealed in such a way so as not to come into contact with metal surfaces and cause sparks. Most airlines allow you to carry on board batteries of up to 100 Watt hours with no problem. These power your mobile phone or portable DVD player. Airways will also allow you to carry batteries from 100 to 160 watt hours but they may restrict the number of batteries you can take on board. As seen above in the case of Quantas and Singapore airlines.
8. Clearances and Restrictions.
Please be aware once you have a medical clearance the airlines also request that they inspect the portable oxygen concentrator itself. The airline in question will also issue you with clearance documentation. It is a further requirement that you have all the relevant clearances and documentation on hand at all times. The airlines reserve the right that an employee of that airline can request to see the documentation at any time. When your Physician has issued your medical certificate, he must clearly state your usage need. Some airlines have the requirement that the concentrator may not be used at certain stages of the flight you are on. Such as during taxi, take off and landing. Some airways will also restrict the total weight of the unit. For example British Airways limit the unit to no more than 5 Kilograms(11 Pounds).
If you are looking to fly on another airline or a connecting flight you will also need to obtain separate approval for that flight. The airlines do not issue a blanket cover of your use of your portable oxygen concentrator. All clearances are issued per specific flight you take. You will need to be aware of all the requirements of any of the Airways you may be using when making your travel reservation.
9. Describe your unit correctly.
BE WARNED!!! An Oxygen Concentrator is sometimes called an oxygen generator. This however is a misnomer. Oxygen generators operate on a completely different principle, they use very high pressures and are thus considered extremely dangerous for use on flights. Most airlines specifically ban oxygen generators as they do with oxygen cylinders.
SO YOU WILL NEED TO CLEARLY STATE TO YOUR CHOSEN AIRLINE THAT YOU ARE USING THE PORTABLE OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR.
For more information we have listed International airlines below with their oxygen policy links.
Domestic Airline policy in South Africa.
Our domestic airways in general follow the requirements of the international airways. The notice period in general drops to 48 hours. Kulula do require a 72 hour notice period. Kulula as they are more focused on the use of Oxygen in cylinders. Check in is normally 1 hour before normal check in times. Medical clearances are required. Be aware that carriers such as Comair are a franchise of British Airways and they have Kulula as their low budget Airline. South African Airways also have similar subsidiaries such as Mango(they do have a clear policy), SA air express and SA airlink. Many will fall back on the main airline’s policies. In the case of South African Airways they specifically exclude the Inogen one G2 unit with battery pack model number BA224. But it appears that Mango do not have this exclusion in place.
South African Domestic airlines with links to their oxygen policy.
When making your travel reservation it is advisable that you fully acquaint yourself with the requirements of each individual carrier.
Is there a viable alternative?
YES ABSOLUTELY! Break away from being handcuffed to a machine? We at Oxygen Products offer an imminently suitable alternative to the portable oxygen concentrator. How would you like to turn your body into a portable oxygen concentrator? If you have answered YES to both the questions above then YOU need our product SUPER OXYGEN™. We have harnessed the power of nature and science to bring you a capsule that will oxygenate your blood. All you have to do – JUST ADD WATER! How convenient is that?
Why Super Oxygen™?
Super Oxygen™ capsules are convenient and easy to use. The formulation uses natural ingredients to break down in your stomach and release oxygen into your blood stream. You create enough supplemental oxygen for your needs. No machines or anything else required apart from water!
Its what we put in.
Super Oxygen™ is a blend of magnesium peroxide and essential vitamins and minerals. Magnesium peroxide gently breaks down to release the much needed Oxygen into your system. The by product is a natural alkaliser and assists with bowel cleansing. Magnesium also helps your cell membranes in nutrient uptake and strength. Our natural blend of essential vitamins and minerals together with the extra oxygen ensures an optimal uptake of nutrients in your body. This further assists your body in increasing your natural immunity.
You may need to get clearance from your airline on the use of Super Oxygen™ as they do list peroxides as a hazardous material. But if they are sealed and kept away from water they should not present any problems. But we do recommend that you check with the airways for your and their peace of mind.
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Wishing you many fun filled adventures and great memories from your travels.
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Harnessing the power of nature and science for a healthier you.